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Overview of the Learning Week

Wow, this week is sure packed full of learning.  The thing that I love about this week is that you will learn a lot of practical information that will help you plan your curriculum.   We will explore how to plan curriculum with regard to specific content areas such as language arts, math, science and social studies.  Another focus of the week will be on classroom management and how having classroom expectations and effective routines will assist with this. This week you will also create your outline for your final project that is due in Week 5 of the course.

Instructor Expertise

Expectations and Routines

One of the areas in which many new teachers struggle is classroom management.  It can be hard to figure out what works and what does not work when it comes to helping your students learn in a well-organized and managed classroom. “The primary goal of classroom or group care behavior management is for each child to regulate him- or herself. Self-control is important because children need to learn how to respond to and adapt to rules, frustration, challenges, and disappointment in order to be successful in school and life” (Jaruszewica, 2012, sec 9.2).   From my experience the best way to help children learn how to self-regulate their behavior in the classroom is to have clear expectations, or guidelines, and effective routines.  Let’s take a deeper look at how you can create clear expectations and effective routines with your students in order to ensure a well-managed classroom that promotes self-control.

  • Creating Clear Expectations – The key to having clear expectations is developing classroom rules that support pro-social behavior.  You should limit your rules, or expectations, to no more than five.  Along with limiting the number of rules to five, you want to try to keep the rules clear and concise and write them in a positive manner.  For example, instead of saying “No talking in line” you might say “Voices off in line”. Also, when possible, include your students in creating the rules with you at the beginning of the year.  “When children play an active role in creating the rules, they are more inclined to follow them” (New Jersey Department of Education, n.d., p.1). Finally, make sure that you post the rules in the classroom where your students can see them.
  • Reinforcing Expectations – Just as important as having clear expectations is making sure that you are consistent when reinforcing them.  One of the most important ideas to keep in mind when doing this is to make sure that you can follow through with what you say.   While this might seem easy, it can be difficult.  If you do not follow through with reinforcing your expectations, then you will send the message that you don’t mean what you say.  As a result what you say will start to lose meaning and your students will misbehave.  Another way to help reinforce your expectations is to make sure that your students’ parents are aware of them.  By doing this the parents can help to support what you are doing in the classroom. 
  • Creating Routines – “Routines are the backbone of daily classroom life. They facilitate teaching and learning…. Routines don’t just make your life easier, they save valuable classroom time” (Scholastic, n.d., para. 1).  In other words, your classroom will run more smoothly based on the routines that you have in place.  Unlike expectations which are the “rules” of the classroom, routines are the procedures that want your students to follow when engaging in particular activities and learning during the school day.  You will want to create and develop routines with your students for the different times in the day that you want to have clear procedures in place.  Some examples of times that teachers create routines are the beginning of the day, how to enter/exit the classroom, transitions from one activity to the next, and going to the restroom.  To see some examples of different routines in action, click HERE.
  • Reinforcing Routines – A similarity between expectations and routines is that they both must be reinforced.  With routines, one of the most effective ways to reinforce them is to provide multiple opportunities for your students to practice following the routines. Make sure that you provide your students with positive praise when they complete the routine successfully. Another strategy that I found effective for reinforcing classroom routines was to take pictures of my students following the routines and then to use those pictures to create class books.  If I noticed that a student was having trouble following the routine for the beginning of the school day, then I would share the “Beginning of the School Day” book with them.   Finally, be patient.  The process of establishing routines and procedures may take several days.  If you reinforce the routines you have set in place, they WILL master them.

What do you envision your classroom expectations will be?  What are some routines that you think you will need to have in place in your classroom?  In the first discussion forum this week you will be discussing some classroom management situations that you think may arise in your classroom and how you will address these situations.  Hopefully the tips shared above will help you to come up with some ideas both for the discussion and for your classroom.

Curriculum Resources

As we discussed during the first week of class, you will have learning standards that you need to use in order to help guide you as you determine the academic skills that you need to teach your students. In the second discussion forum of the week, you will have the opportunity to practice using these standards in order to plan your curriculum.  Specifically, you will need to locate the Kindergarten learning standards for your state.  You can locate the standards for your state HERE. Once you have chosen the standard that you want to focus on, you will need to share two or three ideas for how you would teach this standard in your classroom.  For example, if you choose “Correctly name shapes regardless of their orientations or overall size”, then you would share three ways you could teach this standard.  You could read a story that teaches about the shapes, have the children locate the different shapes around your classroom, or put the shapes in a bag and have children pull a shape out and tell you the name of the shape.  For each idea you share, make sure to explain it in detail so that your classmates can walk away with some new ideas to use in their classroom.

While our text does a wonderful job of sharing resources for teaching different areas of the curriculum, there are many more resources available.  In the chart below there are some additional resources that you can use to help you as you are crafting your initial response for the second discussion forum of the week!  I hope you find them helpful.  Also if you come across any other resources please post them in the Ashford Café!

Challenging our Students’ Thinking

With the development of the Common Core Standards, it is more important than ever that we promote our students’ cognitive development through critical thinking.  “We need to give children opportunities to promote cognitive development through providing opportunities for our students to practice their metacognitive skills as well as their ability to promote problem solving” (Jaruszewica, 2012, sec 10.1). A great strategy for doing this with young learners is by using Bloom’s Taxonomy to guide our questioning.  The wonderful thing about Blooms is that we can use it across all of the curriculum areas that were discussed in this week’s readings.  Many people think that using higher levels of questions with young learners is difficult, but it is completely possible when you approach it by scaffolding the level of your questions from the most basic level which is remembering to the most complex level of creating.  THIS VIDEO does a wonderful job of explaining the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Also, THIS ARTICLE does an AMAZING job of providing some specific examples of how to incorporate Bloom’s into the preschool classroom.

Books as Model Text

There were so many wonderful ideas shared in this week’s readings about how to incorporate curriculum in your classroom.  One idea that was shared in the text that is a lot of fun to use with children is using books as model texts.  Our textbook discussed using Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?  by Bill Martin Jr.,  to do this.  If you were to do this, you would have your students create their own version of the story using the original story as a guide.  For example if it is Halloween time, you could have your students create their own version of Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? that incorporates Halloween ideas.  When doing this, your students will learn many concepts including story elements, concepts of print, what makes a good story, and they were able to practice their writing skills.  The possibilities of using model texts to encourage learning in your classroom are endless and the best part is that your students will have an overwhelming sense of pride when they finish creating their own book!

Critical Reflections / Application Opportunities

  • How will having solid expectations and routines in place have a positive impact on student learning in your classroom?
  • What areas of curriculum do you feel the strongest in? Which areas do you feel are the weakest?  What can you do to turn some of your weaknesses into strengths?
  • How will you challenge your students’ thinking when planning curriculum?  




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